Chapter 1:


Attack of the Turkey Army from Hell: Thanksgiving of the Living Dead!

If I had to choose my favorite thing about Thanksgiving, I’d say it’s a tossup between pumpkin pie and the impending extinction of the human race.

Either that, or the unbearable humiliation I can’t seem to stop facing year after year. After all, that was how all this started: with the colossal and unending burden of illimitable childhood embarrassment haunting me for life. I can remember it like it was yesterday. 20XX. Kindergarten. The Thanksgiving play. The story of the first Thanksgiving ever. Thanksgiving Origins, they called it. As far as I can remember, the plot played it pretty safe to the standard Thanksgiving mythos. Delicate bundle of roasted brussels sprouts in the manger, crisp yet tender, all blanketed up with bacon and birthed of sizzling virgin olive oil. Three wise turkeys glistening with a perfect glaze of gravy and bearing giblets, trailing the corn-yellow light of a harbinger star across a barren desert of mashed potato dunes to their newborn king, sweet potato pie in the sky. All that junk. Truth be told, none of it ever made any sense to me. I mean did they ever explain how that fat arctic bastard on the sleigh fit into all of this?

Anyway, there we were. All us kids dressed up so cute, so adorable in our Thanksgiving costumes. All the parents in the audience, a dim wall of smiles and phones. Mine were eating some reeking leftover turkey I could smell from onstage, as my noodle arms shook with the weight of a billion expectations and two fake branches. During the rehearsals I was a talking mule, but once the teachers realized even the most basic of lines was enough to stump me, they decided to recast me as a tree. It was a shame. I really liked that mule costume, pin-on tail and all. Maybe if I had been able to force my dumb five-year-old brain to memorize a stupid line or two, I wouldn’t have had to leave my original role behind. And maybe that way, I wouldn’t have made such an ass of myself. Maybe that way, I wouldn’t have set the car wreck that was my most shameful moment into unstoppable motion, wouldn’t have force fed the audience a steaming plate of cringe that they greedily gobbled up and never let me live down.

Maybe then, I wouldn’t have looked like such a fool just for trying to tell everyone what in life I was most thankful fo—


I snapped awake from a restless sleep. A nightmare, and a recurring one: the 4k rerun of my pathetic downfall screened nightly inside my broken brain. The stupid part was I could hardly remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, but that single incident in kindergarten, that one undying moment, always remained, like some sort of evil clump of frozen time, a memory I always tried to flush but that just kept circling the bowl, ridiculing me forever for the poor life choices I made when I was five.

I licked my dry lips. For once, I actually could remember what I had for breakfast yesterday. The same stupid thing I’d had the day before that, and the day before that, and every day before that for the entire week.


I hated turkey. I hated everything about it. Yet every time Thanksgiving and its copious leftovers rolled around, I was forced to eat it constantly. Its foul taste was a freeloader on my punished tongue, its color a brutalistic beige basting the insides of my eyelids so that every blink became a terror-vision of poultry, a pantomime specter of family seen once per year gobbling a bird’s meat off of its bones in gross mouthfuls, gluttons gorging on flesh. And its smell — don’t even get me started. A full, torturous week of turkey and counting. I was a dried wishbone: ready to snap. All I had to say that gray morning was congress or whoever signed this stupid holiday into law way back when could suck a drumstick and choke. All this stupid holiday ever did was remind me of that fateful day in kindergarten when I ruined my life forever. It wasn’t even my fault. I mean, that was how the play was supposed to end, for crying out loud. Every one of us kids was supposed to get their turn telling the audience what we were most thankful for. How was I supposed to know my answer would end up getting me labeled a reject and a loser for life?

My bedsheets were a sweaty tangle. They smelled like turkey. Not even bothering to lift my turkey-stuffed body, I rolled over and opened the blinds. Outside, the sky was a thick carpet of cloud cover, ashen and waterlogged. I checked the weather on my phone: 100° with 100% humidity and a 100% chance of rain. Thanks, global warming. I cranked my neck to the side, slid the blinds back, not at all ready to face this dismal day. It was hot as hell, wetter than a swamp, and if I had to eat turkey for another meal on top of it all, I was going to… I was going to…

“Hey, Cheese,” I said, staring at the bumpy ceiling. “What should I do to the next person who reminds me of turkey? Fist to the face, you think? Or maybe a swift kick to the nu—”

Before I could finish, Cheese was on top of me, lapping my face with his leathery diseased tongue, slathering me straight to biosafety level 4. Meanwhile, he was pawing me all over and kicking up huge cloudbursts of tics and grime and who knows what else, all erupting around me, filthy bouquets in polluted bloom turning my entire room into a biohazard containment zone.

Against my better judgment, I sniffed. As usual, the smell was coming off of Cheese, off of his flaking fur and peeling skin. Except this wasn’t his usual stink. This was worse. It was a familiar smell. He smelled like…

… turkey.

“Ahhh! Aghghghgh!!!! Get the heck offa me, you buzzard-smelling mutt!”

Cheese landed on the floor in a heap of bones and guts and loose skin. I felt kind of bad for basically kicking him off of me and piling him into this state, but not too bad: after all, he knew how to shake himself back together. One second later, he was back to his old, reanimated self, a pungent dog skeleton filled in with a maggot-eaten brain and some bits that I bet probably used to be intestines, all draped with a sheeting of rotting skin. I loved this little guy back then, and taking care of him was just about the only thing I ever put my all into. I figured putting my whole heart into raising him was the least I could do considering, y’know, he only had about ¾ of his left. Just some arteries and an aorta, really, hanging around his bony rib cage.

I’ve gotta say though: for a reanimated corpse, Cheese sure did pack it away. First thing in the morning, and he was already halfway through an entire bowl.

Of turkey.

I held my nose. “Can’t get enough of that stuff, can you, boy?”

Cheese barked happily and kept downing cold bird. I tried not to let him eat people food too much — I mean, I already let him eat and sleep in my room, for god’s sake, and I didn’t want to spoil him any more than that — but whenever Thanksgiving rolled around, I made an exception. If it got rid of the turkey faster, he could have all the human food he liked.

“You look like a semi ran over your face a few times.” That’s kind of what I wanted to tell Cheese every day of his afterlife, but I was never rude enough to say it out loud. My mom, however, was. So she did say it, to me, when I dragged myself into the kitchen that morning for a depressing breakfast: a big bowl of turkey and milk, plus a tall glass of turkey-blended OJ.

“Yeah, well,” I mumbled in response, digging in. I almost puked on the spot as the evil smoothie settled slimily into my churning belly. “Some of us have to work over Thanksgiving break.” My mom was a teacher, and that meant she got fall breaks. I did too, obviously, from school, but I still had my part time job to do. Frankly, the work was starting to get to me. In between gulps of fowl, I caught my glassy reflection on the side of my drink. I hated to admit it, but my mom was right. I looked like a mess. I had been too tired to take off my clown makeup last night and so I had just gone to sleep in the stuff. Probably spread half of it across my pillow as I tossed and turned in the grip of my usual nightmare too, if the fact that the entire left side of my face was a smear was any indication.

Oh yeah, I should probably explain what my job was. That way when I tell you about how I got a way better job after the turkeys took over, it’ll make more sense how happy I was. Cause before that, I was a clown. Figuratively, if you asked most people, sure, but also literally. Like, an actual clown. I wasn’t the best clown in the world. In fact, I was probably close to the worst. But I was cheap, and that’s how I got work. Also, I was the only clown willing to work remote, which a lot of the local parents liked. I guess they’d gotten used to doing things that way over the pandemic or whatever. Or maybe it was just the fact that I’d been the laughing stock of the entire town ever since I told everyone what I was most thankful for when I was five, so pretty much everyone liked staying as far away from me as possible except when they were trying to humiliate me for my childhood mishap in the stupid Thanksgiving play. Looking back, I don’t know how I slogged through that pathetic job without ever once wanting to put hot metal through my rainbow-wigged skull. Ever been to a kids’ birthday party over Zoom? Lucky you.

I stared into my bowl of soggy meat, took a deep breath, and started shoveling.

“I’m only going to tell you this once, Chimp.” My mom reached a blubbery arm to scratch at the acne plantation on the back of her neck, clawing it into a flurry of flaking skin. Great. My appetite was already lost; at this rate it would never be found. “You look like a chump. And you are one. If your father could see you now…”

I could already tell she was in a bad mood from her tone. But now she was even talking about Dad. She only ever brought him up when she was upset, lamenting the depressing course her life had taken since his comedic death. Dad had slipped on turkey grease a few Thanksgivings ago and ended up slamming the back of his skull straight into a pan of mashed potatoes that had been left out for a week and a half and had hardened into a single sedimentary clump. Dead on impact. Rest in pumpkin pie, I guess.

“Oh yeah,” Mom said, wiping her foggy glasses with the hem of her stained shirt, “ I almost forgot. That nutjob professor stopped by. Had something to talk to you about.”

I perked up, almost choking on a spoonful of foul fowl. “Doc?”

“The one with the…” Her bulbous hands shot to her ears and she wiggled her fat fingers crazily like writhing worms.

“With the crazy hair, yeah, that’s Doc. What did he want?”

“He wanted you to meet him at his laboratory. Said it was important.”

“Important.” That was how he phrased it, according to my mom. I pinched my nose and chugged the rest of my drink. I licked my lips.

If anything good happened that day, it was that I decided not to bring Cheese along with me. He was licking slimy meat off a bone in sheer delight as I was about to leave, so I decided to let him be, let him enjoy it. No point tearing him away from that simple happiness when I was only gonna be gone for maybe a few hours tops, I thought. And besides, him and Doc never got along anyway. I didn’t get why at the time. Now I think I do. I think all Cheese really ever wanted was the one thing I couldn’t give him and that Doc and his crazy reanimation experiments had denied him: to rest in peace. For us to remember him as the dog he had once been. Not as whatever the hell Doc had turned him into.

So I decided not to bring him along. It was the last good decision I ever made. And the first. If Cheese had gotten hurt that day — if I had been forced to witness the only being I had ever loved get caught up in the spiral of events that was about to whirlwind into terrible motion — I really don’t know what I would have done.

That was my last image of him: happily slopping turkey grease from his dog bowl in a cloud of flies, maggoty flesh dripping onto the ratty carpet.